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Issue Date: June 2010 Issue

Seeing Stars

Jim Vickers
Galileo’s first telescope only magnified objects to three times the size he could see them with his naked eye. Later, he created one almost seven times as powerful and changed astronomy. With it he could better observe our moon and see those that orbit Jupiter. He discovered sunspots and put forth the idea that the Earth and other planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. As incredible as those discoveries must have been to him 400 years ago, it’s hard to say what Galileo would have made of the Hubble Space Telescope, which after its 1990 launch allowed humans to look out across the universe and see it for what it truly is, unfathomably vast and extraordinary.

Hubble, now showing at the Great Lakes Science Center’s Omnimax theater, is a documentary about the 2009 rescue mission to repair the revolutionary piece of research equipment and a first-hand look at just how deep into space the telescope can see. The latter provides the most memorable scenes, including a closeup of the center of Orion’s belt. The view reveals an incredibly complex system inside the tiny point of light we see in the night sky.

The 43-minute film, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, tells the story of the Atlantis STS-125 shuttle astronauts who made critical fixes to the ailing space telescope. Among them is Broadview Heights native Mike Good, who at one point compares the hours of repairs to “a heavyweight fight.” Viewers see the zenlike calmness needed to remove 32 tiny screws while wearing huge gloves and are reminded that razor-sharp metal components capable of cutting space suits need to be treated with extreme care.

If there is any disappointment in Hubble, it’s that the film is not the 3-D version many Imax theaters are showing. Still, the bowl-like screen of the Great Lakes Science Center’s Omnimax theater provides a satisfying immersion.
Besides, 3-D glasses or not, there is no discounting the power of getting a look at the farthest edge of Hubble’s reach: light arriving from a galaxy 13 billion light-years away that began its trip toward Hubble’s lens when the universe was just 7 percent of its current age. It’s a glimpse of a young solar system far less developed than our own that likely resembles what the Milky Way looked like in its infancy.

The idea is mind-bending, but it’s also the most enthralling part of Hubble — the chance, as the film’s producer and director Toni Myers says, to look “back to the edge of time.”

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